Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volcanic Ash Disrupts US Flights To Europe

The bottom fell out of travel plans for thousands of U.S. airline passengers Thursday as dozens of flights between the U.S. and Europe were canceled, part of a global disruption in air travel as clouds of ash from a volcano in Iceland forced widespread closures of European airports.

At least 100 U.S. flights had been canceled by early Thursday afternoon Eastern Daylight Time, according to David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transportation Association, which represents most major U.S. carriers.

Most of the canceled U.S. flights were to the United Kingdom or from there, he said. Some airlines were also canceling flights scheduled for Friday, he said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency was working with airlines to reroute flights from the U.S. to Europe around the cloud when possible. Some flights en route were also returned to the U.S. late Wednesday and early Thursday or diverted from their intended destination to other Europe airports as closures mounted.

Volcanic eruptions rarely interrupt commercial air travel, but some large ash clouds high in the atmosphere have the potential to stall or shut down jet engines.

Airports in Britain, Ireland and Nordic countries were closed first. By late Thursday morning France had closed 23 airports, including Paris airports.

But flights to other destinations are also affected. Brown said the route for most flights from the U.S. East Coast to Europe crosses the North Atlantic near the ash cloud.

A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates New York's three metro area airports, would not comment on flights and the impact of the air space closure on individual airlines.

The route between New York and London is the second busiest in the world, behind the route between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

FAA; Reuters; AP.

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